Guatemala City became the capital after Antigua had been destroyed by an earthquake in 1773. With a population of around 3 million people, it is very busy with congested traffic. A good starting point for a tour of the country is to visit the National Archaeology Museum to learn about the pre-Hispanic Mayan world. It’s very informative and extremely interesting.
Plaza of the Constitution
We walked around the Plaza that is the heart of the Historic Center of the city. It is surrounded by important monuments such as the National Palace (now the Cultural National Palace and museum), the Metropolitan Cathedral, the Portal of Commerce and Centenarian Park. A few steps away are the National Library and the General Archive of Central America.
National Archaeology Museum
Opened in 1898 this an ideal place to learn how people first settled in Guatemala as they migrated through Central America, and formed different languages, farming techniques, and ways to honour their dead. There is a full history of the Mayan people with many exposed ruins, stelae, artefacts and pottery from the main archaeological sites in Guatemala, together with displays of artwork, crafts and traditional textiles and dress. It’s well worth a visit to learn about the Mayans.
Las Americas Avenue
Las Americas avenue is named after the reform drawn in the late nineteenth century, due to the formation of the Organization of American States on April 30th, 1948. The area comprising the Avenue of the Americas was demarcated in several farms in the early decade of the 50’s with the intention of dedicating land to the American continent.
Civic Center of the City
The Civic Center of the City, is a set of buildings constructed between the 50’s and 60’s and includes: the Supreme Court of Justice, the Ministry of Public Finance, City Hall, the Social Security, the Bank of Guatemala, the National Mortgage Bank, and the Guatemalan Tourism Commission. The Bank of Guatemala is decorated with high relief murals by Dagoberto Vasquez describing the history of the country, and also includes a mosaic by Carlos Mérida.
Guatemala has the highest land in Central America. It gained independence from the Mexicans in 1820 (Mexico gained independence in 1810 from the Spanish).Guatemala City is the 4th capital city established in 1776. Iximche, founded in 1523, was the first capital, then Ciudad Vieja which was damaged by a mudslide from the volcano de Agua so it moved down the valley to Antigua which then suffered a disastrous major earthquake in 1773 and hence was abandoned as the capital.
Guatemala has 16m people of which 3m live in the city. Half the population is Mayan and the other half mixed race. There are 22 Mayan groups, each with their own language. Around Lake Atitlan there are 12 villages, mainly with Mayan inhabitants, each with their own colour national costume. The people are very friendly and happy and willing to talk with tourists, most don’t mind their photo being taken.
The modern buses in Guatemala city had raised doors so passengers went up a ramp at the bus stop to get on the bus. There are also many old, batered buses.
We expected the food to be hot and spicy, from the Mexican influence but it was mild with no chillies. Much of the food is comprised of Avacados or Tomatoes.
There is an abundance of stray dogs that bark in the night.
Guatemala is not particularly eco-friendly. For example, there is an abundance of 500ml small water bottles, instead of having a reusable water container topped up from larger water carriers. Also, in many of the hotels and all public places, toilet paper has to be put in a bin lined with plastic bags, regardless of whether ‘clean or dirty’. This may be fine for public places, but in hotel rooms, even if a few sheets of ‘clean’ toilet paper are in the bin, they put in a new plastic bag daily, so it rather defeats the object as they are generating more plastic than flushing bi-degradable paper into the sewerage system.